Why did this Vegas Casino cut its poker room in half?

What is Stadium Blackjack

by Margie Pignataro for Great Bridge Links. © 2016.

Recently, the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas has cut its poker room in half in order to make room for Stadium Blackjack.  This is extraordinary for a few reasons.  The poker room at the Venetian is a well respected poker room, even one of the best in Vegas.  It’s also quite lovely: the Venetian is decorated in the renaissance style, and the poker room is a bright cream color of caramel gellato, with ornate golden chandeliers.  The ceiling itself looks as if Michaelangelo himself had painted it (a down-on-his-luck Michaelangelo willing to sell himself for quick cash money) with dancing cherubs and half naked angels.

The way the room is constructed, it couldn’t be divided in half aesthetically—not without offending the ceiling and the natural, slightly curved shape of the room.

So why do this and why Stadium Blackjack?  What what IS Stadium Blackjack?

The most obvious to the first question is that, though, poker at the Venetian is a lucrative business, it has off seasons.  During the summer, during the World Series of Poker, is most definitely its busiest time.  And blackjack, or any other casino game which is less skill based and favoring the house more, would make the casino more money.

Stadium Blackjack: here’s a short video that explains it.

It’s a strange hybrid of live blackjack and computer blackjack.  It can be played with up to 250 at a time (versus the five of traditional blackjack).  Each player as their own terminal, which creates a virtual blackjack table.  The dealer deals the house cards.  The computer deals the player’s cards.  The dealer’s cards come up on the screen and each player plays though normally.  There are no chips or cash; everything is done with vouchers.

So this is how it works.  The dealer one set of cards from a shoe which can hold three to five decks of cards at a time.  Everyone playing gets dealt the same hand.  Then, everyone has the same choices, hit or stand, and the dealer continues to deal the needed cards.  Still, everyone gets the same cards.  All of this comes up on the computer screen and all choices made by the players are done through pressing squares on the screen.  There is no one-on-one time with the dealer.

With traditional blackjack, it would require 25 dealers to serve 150 blackjack players.  Now, with Stadium Blackjack, you only need one.  The limits are lower; you’ll see more $5 blackjack in casinos that traditionally have $15-$25 minimum bets.  I imagine that the lower limits will be made up by the volume of players and lack of a need to pay dealers.

It’s supposed to be faster and hold the attention of the players more.  And, most importantly, it is ideal for the shy player.  The player who feels intimidated by the dealer, by the piercing eyes of seasoned blackjack pros who weigh your choices against their philosophies and superstitions about the game.

Do I approve?  This is the cue for me to rage against new technology, against taking jobs away from dealers in favor of making more and more money.  I could say this is isolating, dehumanizing, and that my mother, devoted blackjack player that she was, would scream and throw a fit over this until she passed out.

I’ve seen a lot of new technology wash over the Vegas casinos like a tsunami.  Every game that is in a casino has its computerized equivalent.  But it happens.  More than any city I’ve ever been to, Vegas changes constantly.  I don’t recognize it most of the time.  The Vegas of my childhood doesn’t exist anymore.  So, of course, the games will change.  I don’t like it when anyone loses their jobs, but the world does change.

This is what I object to about Stadium Blackjack and any form of a computerized game:  it is too easy.  Gambling shouldn’t be easy.  It should be difficult, requiring confrontation, thinking, and skill.  Above all it must require courage.  After all, it involves money, and it should be respected, not squandered.  Money is an important, vital and dangerous thing.  Easy gambling makes money as disposable as tissues.  Of course, this is what casinos want.  But I also believe in freedom of choice, and that people may choose to gamble their money away with ease.  It isn’t something I would ever do.

Margie Pignataro is a Fiction/Playwright/Academic Writer from the United Kingdom. Margie is a regular contributor to Great Bridge Links and Gifts for Card Players